Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The First Victory of Peace

This post is A bit after the fact I know but I was doing Radio 2 Pause for Thought on VJ Day, Sunday.

When I was a child my dad used to let me stay up late to watch the war-time programme Secret Army. It was a lot more serious than the hilarious Dad’s Army, much more like the classic Colditz, for which I had the Action Man figures and the Board Game.

Even though it won Seven Oscars, one war movie that was not for viewing in our house was The Bridge over the River Kwai. It carried painful associations for members of our family and it was always switched off. The film tells the story of Allied Prisoners of War forced to build a bridge by their brutal (and brutalised) Japanese Guards.

Years later, when I was actually working in Japan, we were talking about the national stereo types we have of one another. I was amazed to discover that they thought that British people lived in the dangerous and foggy streets of Sherlock Holmes and they were taken-a-back to realise how much war time movies had shaped what I thought of them. It’s always a bit of a shock to see ourselves as other people see us, to hear what others say of us.

I’ve been thinking of those conversations recently and of the cultural clich├ęs we exposed and left behind, because today Britain will commemorate VJ Day: It’s 65 years ago that the war against Japan was finally brought to an end. I have huge admiration for those who gave their lives back then, but I hope we’ve come a long way since, especially in understanding one another better.

Because if the first casualty in war is truth, if propaganda encourages us to see the other people as being somehow less human than we are, then the first victory of peace should be for us to see each others as equal partners in a shared and redeemed humanity.

And maybe that’s why Jesus told us to love our enemies.

I think it was a challenge even in the midst of conflict

for us to see ourselves in others,

to value in them the identical image of God that lives in every one

And so for all we humans are different,

we’re really just the same

And I hope onm VJ Day we don’t remember just the victory of some

and the defeat of others

I hope we celebrate the chance for peace to overcome in the hearts of everyone.

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